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Life-long Learning: Your Key to Employability

Connie Podesta 12-17

In today’s business world and economic climate, job security feels a little precarious-right? While your specific job may be necessary today, unfortunately, that doesn’t guarantee you a position tomorrow. The trick to staying employed and still climbing the ladder regardless of market rollercoasters? Adopt and adapt to CHANGE. Those who are willing to evolve, update their skills, enhance their industry knowledge and commit to lifelong learning will better weather whatever challenges that come their way as well as make themselves a more valuable asset to their organizations. The question is – will that be you?

The truth is that in almost every industry, jobs are being revamped in order for businesses to stay competitive. What we know today only truly represents 1% of what will be available in 2050. To thrive in this chaotic time – savvy employees, leadership teams, sales professionals and entrepreneurs have to keep a mindful watch on new trends, ideas, innovations and advancements. Not just for the short term – but help to forecast what’s ahead. There’s no margin for “good enough” or “it’s not my job.” Want to succeed? Be the person who stays one-step-ahead, keeps your eye-on-the- future and accept the challenges as opportunities to advance.

Secrets of success? Try these…

Identify the Skills that are of Value to Your Company. Smart-start your rise to the top by assessing your value to your organization. What skills do you already possess? What are you great at – and honestly – what needs work to you must be aware of the skills you possess that help make you a valuable employee? Know your company – and where it’s headed. Some organizations place a high value on specialists who are very good at one thing, while others value more generalized knowledge across a wider spectrum. To remain employable, it’s important to know where your organization places greater emphasis. If you are not aware of your strengths and their value to your organization, it is probable that you aren’t using them to their greatest advantage. Even if you are aware of your strengths, start expanding your level of expertise and learn new skills to increase your value.

And don’t just take your OWN word for it. In addition to self-assessment, it’s important to also get feedback from your manager or supervisor. When asking for an evaluation, perception is the name of the game. You can have all the right motives, justify your behavior, and defend your attitude to the hilt. However, if your boss, co-workers, colleagues, and customers perceive you as apathetic, irritable, argumentative, or impatient, then that is their reality. You need to address their comments not by tirelessly defending your actions, but by working to understand what it is you say and do that creates this perception in other people’s minds. While it takes great confidence, even courage, to ask for honest feedback, it’s the first step to assessing your skills and seeing where you need to make improvement.

Once you determine the skills you need, arrange to get that training in a way that is the least disruptive to your life. You’ll find that there is a wide variety of options to meet your training and educational needs. An additional benefit is the opportunity to meet and learn from other people if you will only step outside your comfort zone to get to know them at training sessions and workshops. It’s amazing that in today’s rapidly changing job market there are still employees who feel that they have no need to learn anything new. This is NOT the time to take the back seat or demonstrate that you’re comfortable in the status quo. Not when a commitment to learning is so necessary in order to stay employed.

2. Keep Your Skills Up to Date. Even if know that your current skills are of value NOW to your organization, take a look at the trends ahead. The vast majority of people who lost their jobs due to downsizing or cutbacks revealed that they knew of the possibility that their jobs might be eliminated-even months in advance. Nevertheless, they did not go back to school, network, or train for another job in their own organization or even look into the possibilities of other employment or of starting their own business. Most did not even have an updated resume when they received the bad news. What about you? Are you preparing for the possibility that your job many be eliminated in the future?

What new skills could you acquire that would make you STAND OUT from the CROWD – not just in your organization—but your field. What current skills could just a refresher course or a re-boot based on the rapid advancement of technology? Considered a class, seminar, teleconference or webinar in social media marketing? Communication skills? Negotiation? Customer acquisition? The list of possibilities is endless. I know that for many people already working longer hours with more responsibilities, the idea of going back to school or learning something new seems overwhelming – but the thought of being unemployed is even more daunting. One of the greatest things about living in the time we do is that there is ALWAYS an opportunity to learn 24/7 online – from great books, to incredible videos, to audio podcast to workshops on demand.

3. Find a Mentor and Learn from a Pro. A mentor is a wise and trusted teacher or guide who can help to ensure your future employability. Generally they are someone you look up to, someone who has found a degree of success in your field and someone with a willingness and desire to give back. While it may seem that these successful pros are too busy or too accomplished to ask, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn how eager (and flattered) they are to lend a helping hand.

Unfortunately, many employees never ask for help or advice. They believe that asking for help will pinpoint them as being inept at their job. Nothing could be further from the truth. When you seek help from a mentor, you show that you want to discuss ideas, support others, and work as a team. It shows upper management that you take your job seriously and want to continually improve.

Many employees find mentors in their own organizations who contribute to the success of their careers. No matter what field you’re in or how much you know, there are people who can teach you something more. Make sure you take advantage of any opportunities you have to learn from the pros in your business or profession. It’s an important part of your commitment to lifelong learning. Oh – and when you’ve mastered a skill – don’t be afraid to find a protégé that you can help mentor yourself!

Don’t Stop There! Leaders truly are lifetime learners. They go out of their way to consistently fine tune their skills, stay current with industry trends, read the professional and trade journals that relate to their industries. They network with like-minded professionals where they can challenge each other to do more. They ask questions. If you don’t see your job as a part of that big picture-as part of the future of your business and your organization-learn what you can do to change that. Make sure you join business associations and attend conferences. They provide the opportunity to meet your competition firsthand, see what the latest trends are, and make new friends.

Granted, committing to lifelong learning requires time and dedication. And while you may think you don’t have the time to implement all these ideas, if you want to stay employed, you need to make the time for lifelong learning. It’s the only way to ensure lifelong employment.


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